This update from Virginia Tech Campus Minister Steve Wilkin is from last week, but it's still fairly timely. You'll know what to do when you read it. We particularly appreciate Steve's insights on the nature of "answers."
Sorry it's been so long since I've gotten an update out. Still don't have time for a thorough one, but prayer is needed, so here are some requests:
1. Monday night we spent some of the gifts we've been receiving to buy pizza for all the CCVTers for supper. Of course, this was their first day back in classes and our first opportunity to get everyone back together so we planned this to let everybody get back in touch. Turn out was good, but more bad news was in store because there I found out that another one of the girls who just started coming several weeks ago had lost two friends in the shooting also. Her name is Kara. Kara knew Ryan Clark and Rachael Hill. Kara lives in the dorm where the first set of shootings took place (AJ), so of course that's one thing that makes this all hit close to home for her. She had talked to Ryan many times, and Rachael was on Kara's floor. Ryan is the Resident Assistant that was shot during the first shooting. Rachael had heard about the shooting in AJ but, as you know, no one was told not to go to class so she went and was shot there. Bitter irony.
2. Next prayer request is for Paula. Paula had a pace maker put in yesterday. I just got off the phone with her uncle who I know well and he said that he was at the hospital yesterday during the procedure and that it went well and she is doing well. Pray that she heals rapidly and that the pace maker does exactly what it is supposed to do and solves her health problems. She is expected to be discharged from the hospital today. Then she'll go to her parents' house. I don't know how long she plans to spend there.
There are a lot of reasons to feel a lot of sympathy for Paula in this situation. First of all, how many 22 year olds have to get a pace maker? Second, Paula is graduating and also getting married in May. It has got to be stressful to deal with this right before your graduation and wedding. Third, because of the tragedy at VT, a lot of the sympathy and support she would otherwise have gotten is not really there because people's attention and energy is focused elsewhere. Paula has been an important part of CCVT for a whole 5 years! (She already got her Bachelors degree and is now getting her Masters.) Please pray for this long time member of CCVT.
3. Tonight CCVT is gathering for our weekly worship meeting called "Oasis." We don't usually eat together before the meeting but one of the home groups of a local church, Belmont Christian Church, offered to make a homemade meal for the students. We decided to have this tonight before Oasis and have the students invite all their friends to a free homemade dinner and then hopefully to stay for Oasis. Pray that God will bless this time including giving me wisdom what to say and what not to say during the lesson about this tragedy. This will be my biggest opportunity yet to proclaim the gospel with reference to this tragedy. Pray that I will proclaim it clearly and boldly as I should. But this truth must be spoken with love and gentleness.
I have heard many, many Christians these last several days say that they "don't have any answers, but...." I think the Bible does teach answers to all the questions people are asking in the wake of this tragedy. Maybe the Christians who say they don't have any answers are just being modest, or maybe they need to study more, or maybe they are just expressing the difficulty of expressing the answers the Bible offers in a way that people in agony will accept. I believe the answers are intellectually satisfying, but that doesn't mean they take all the pain away. I think the inability to take all the pain away is often what Christians are really referring to when they say they don't have any answers. But I think we would do better to state that more carefully lest we leave people with the impression that our faith is not well founded and we are merely Existentialists rebelling against meaninglessness through the vehicle of an ancient religious tradition.
If you have said something like this to me, don't worry about it. I know what you meant. But please pray for me that I will say what needs to be said to the particular audience that gathers tonight, the composition of which I cannot possibly know in advance as I write this to you. Some will be CCVTers who were not greatly affected and are already recovering. Some will be CCVTers who are still hurting deeply. Some will be Christians from outside CCVT. Some will be non-Christians. Some will be drawing closer to God because of this tragedy. Some may be angry at God for allowing this to happen. I have ideas what I would say to any one of those groups. But how do you speak to them all at the same time and say what needs to be said, without alienating at least some of them? God will provide, through your prayers.
4. Thursday is the International Bible Study Stacey leads. Pray for them again.
5. Thursday night Stacey leads the Girls' Gel Group (small group Bible study, basically). So that's two groups to lead in one day. This is a challenge every week, but especially now. Pray for Stacey, especially.
6. Pray for our camping trip this weekend. This was in the works months ago, and I thought when this happened it would be canceled, but the students still want to go. Well, if they want to go, I think it will be good for them. They will get away from campus and spend lots of good quality time with each other, talking and taking care of each other. Plus, some of the newest students in our group are coming, so this will help integrate them into the group.
Thank you all so much for your prayers and gifts. They are really helping.